The following remembrance is from Girl Child project advisors, Will Keepin and Cynthia Brix, founding directors of Gender Equity & Reconciliation International.
My dear Brothers and Sisters, we are ONE human family. . . We can be human only together.Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
We pray for the peace of the soul of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who passed away on the day after Christmas. Our sincere and deepest condolences and prayers go to Leah Tutu, Rev. Mpho Tutu van Furth, and the whole Tutu family, as well as our many South African friends, and all those around the world who love him so dearly.
Through our friends and colleagues Dr. Dorothea Hendricks and Rev. Mpho Tutu van Furth, we had the immense privilege and joy of meeting with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu several times and receiving his blessing and endorsement for our Gender Equity and Reconciliation International (GERI) program, and for our Dawn of Interspirituality program.
“We are inaugurating and announcing this collaboration with an outstanding group [Gender Equity and Reconciliation International] that has done wonders in helping to recover the humanity of women,” said Archbishop Tutu.
The GERI program was inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, led by Archbishop Tutu. The entire human family lives under the tyranny of a veritable ‘gender apartheid’ — a structural oppression that afflicts women and men and people of all gender identities, irrespective of sexual orientation. “We have undermined our humanity by the treatment that we have meted out to women,” said Archbishop Tutu, “just as much as racists undermine their humanity by treating others as less than human.”
“Gender Reconciliation is the logical next step for our country,” said Rev. Mpho Tutu van Furth, former Executive Director of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, and daughter of the Tutus. The GERI program applies principles of truth and reconciliation to transform gender injustice, cultivate equal rights and mutual respect, and foster healing and mutual reverence between the genders by bringing men and women together in safe places to discuss gender and sexuality and to share their own stories. “The work of racial reconciliation will never be complete without the work of gender reconciliation,” she said.
The blessings of Archbishop and Rev. Mpho Tutu van Furth help keep the flame of reconciliation and transformation ablaze within our hearts. “We are made for loving,” says Tutu, affectionately called the Arch. “If we don’t love, we will be like plants without water.”
“My dear Brothers and Sisters, we are ONE human family,” said the Arch in his blessing for our Dawn of Interspirituality conferences, convened to bridge the major religions. “As we approach the transcendent One, we all find Home.”
The Arch was deeply committed to interfaith harmony and collaboration across the world religions, as beautifully exemplified by his close personal and spiritual friendship with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Their wonderful dialogues, their book on Joy, and their lively playfulness and deep spiritual resonance at the intersection of Buddhism and Christianity is such a unique blessing to the world, and a remarkable symbolic brotherhood between the Buddha and the Christ. As the Arch proclaimed in the startling title of one his books, God is not a Christian. “All of God’s children and their different faiths help us to realize the immensity of God. No faith contains the whole truth about God. All of us belong to God.”
The Arch concluded his blessing with this prayer: “The God that I worship—which you worship in different kinds of ways — is smiling upon you,” and upon all who endeavor in earnest to unite the human family as one.
We have been so grateful and inspired to serve as supporters of the Girl Child project and advisors on the patriarchy explainer video created by Imago Dei Fund (IDF), which is such a unique and groundbreaking project. Imagine bringing astounding clarity and cross-cultural awakening to thousands of years of patriarchal oppression across the entire human race—in just four minutes! This video does just that, and it not only lays bare the painful origins and legacy of patriarchy, but also points the way forward toward a new and brighter future for the female half of humanity. We are also deeply inspired to collaborate with IDF’s visionary commitment to contemplative spirituality, which creates an urgently needed inter-religious platform and praxis for reconciling the world’s great spiritual traditions, shedding their patriarchal and narrow sectarian dogmas of the past — and as the Arch called for — celebrating the unique contribution that the major spiritual traditions make to the shared quest for and realization of the oneness and unity of the entire human family.
May we always remember the remarkable life and legacy of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Few people in history have served humanity so profoundly and courageously as the Arch has done. He didn’t just speak spiritual truth to worldly power, he lived it. The Arch was instrumental in freeing an entire nation from one of the most tyrannical governments in modern history. And he didn’t stop there; he then led one of the most remarkable processes of reconciliation and forgiveness ever carried out on a national scale between the perpetrators and victims of the systematic violence of Apartheid.
How did one man accomplish so much? What was the Arch’s secret? It wasn’t actually him who did all these things; it was a higher divine power that worked through him. And we, too, are called onto this same path. There is no greater way to honor and celebrate the life of Archbishop Tutu, than for us, each in our own way, to follow the currents of Love and Truth that burn in our own hearts.
We are all on a learning curve! Mercifully God does not get impatient. He/She has all of eternity. We really can’t conceive a timeless existence, we are so spatio-temporally conditioned. Ah well, it is a relief that God is God, however far short our conception of God is.Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
May the Arch continue to serve as our spiritual inspiration, guide, teacher, and friend, as we each do our part — however seemingly small or unnoticed in the public arena — to heal the divisions in the human family, and transform ourselves and our societies into a new Heaven and new Earth.
Cynthia Brix and Will Keepin are founding directors of Gender Equity & Reconciliation International. They partner with the Girl Child project as advisors, supporting the creation of the explainer video, Understanding our History of Patriarchy, What’s Faith Got to do with it?, and offering wisdom and perspective to our Girl Child Long Walk Fellows. This remembrance originally appeared in GERI’s email newsletter.